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Bob Oct 31st, 2002 07:03 AM

NoCal...SFO, Tahoe skiing is this doable?
Okay fodorites, I have searched and still need some help. My wife and I have many Southwest air vouchers and are planning a vacation with our parents and siblings (6 total adults) to the bay area and tahoe next spring. (End of March)We are planning to arrive at noon on thursday and fly back early tuesday. My feeling is we should stay in SF thursday, friday and then start our way up to Tahoe on saturday going through wine country. We would stay in Tahoe saturday night and sunday night and ski Heavenly Sunday and Monday. My in laws do not ski and they could gamble, sitesee Tahoe while we ski. We would drive back monday night and stay at an airport hotel for our tuesday flight. My questions are....should we fly into Oakland, San Jose, Sacramento or Reno? Obviously it would depend on our itinerary. My feeling is Skiing would be more crowded on Sat so we will ski Sun/Mon. Is that correct? How bout Bay area? Better to tour on Thurs/ Fri than w/e? How long will it take to Tahoe from SF? Is Heavenly the place to ski? Do you agree with my thought process or should we change the itinerary around? Is there anything I have not thought of that you would highly recommend? Are we choosing the right time of year to go? Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank You.

Former Oct 31st, 2002 11:47 AM

I'll take a stab at this.<BR><BR>Bob, you are packing a lot into a short time. Remember, California driving includes a long way between some areas.<BR><BR>For example, just the straight drive from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe South Shore (Heavenly) is around 5 hours...depending on the road conditions over Hgwy 50.<BR><BR>Also, the skiing at Heavenly will depend very much on the snowpack that late. It could be iffy.....or it could still be going great. My Stepson works at Squaw Valley. Some years they ski until the end of May. Other years, who knows? <BR><BR>Here is what I recommend. Fly into Oakland and stay in San Francisco (not Oakland) per your plan. Skip the wine country this time and go straight to South Shore on Saturday.<BR><BR>On Monday, after you ski (if possible), I would drive to Reno and leave from Reno/Tahoe Int. Airport Tuesday, am. Reno is only about 1 hour from Tahoe. No reason to make the long trip back to the Bay Area or even Sacramento.<BR><BR><BR>Dick

Bob Oct 31st, 2002 01:55 PM

Dick, Thanks for the reply. I will look into Flying out of Reno and need to ckeck SWAir policy on FF vouchers. I hope returning the vehicle to another location won't make it cost prohibitive. I would love more info from other fodorites. How is the skiing in late March and crowds as well.<BR>Thank you.

xxx Oct 31st, 2002 02:09 PM

In my experience, spring conditions often exist at Heavenly even in early March. I am originally from Sacramento, and the area just doesn't tend to see that many storms beyond late Feb./early Mar. Tahoe skiing is definitely better in December and January.<BR><BR>But the good news is, if the conditions are poor, there's still plenty to see and do in the beautiful Tahoe area. <BR><BR><BR>I agree with Former - skip the wine country this time. It's too much to pack in during one afternoon between the Bay Area and Tahoe.

janis Oct 31st, 2002 03:17 PM

I live near Sacramento and go to Tahoe frequently. If skiing is a main point for your trip, I'd consider going in Feb or even Jan. The conditions might be great in March - but your chances are much better earlier in the season.<BR><BR>As the others said, don't attempt to sqeeze the wine country in a drive from SF to Tahoe.<BR><BR>I have a different suggestion - fly into Reno and ski/gamble/tour Tahoe Thurs, Fri Sat. Then late Sat afternoon drive down to the Bay area and drop the rental car (no one needs a car in SF). Stay in San Francisco Sat, Sun and Mon day night and fly out Tues morning.<BR><BR>This gives you more time at tahoe and Sat night through Tues morning in SF.

Bob Oct 31st, 2002 03:47 PM

Janis,<BR>Thank you for your reply. My concern with skiing Fri/sat is the crowds. How bad are they? We don't want to wait all day at the lifts. That was why I thought it would be better to go up Sat afternoon to avoid the bay area crowds. I thought we should be going against traffic for our trip. Is it better to stay at a casino and take the gondola, or rent a condo house on the mountain. How reliable is the shuttle?<BR>Please keep the responses coming.

Susan Oct 31st, 2002 03:58 PM

Hi Bob, when you mentioned Heavenly and the fact that some of you will ski and some will gamble, it made me think of the Embassy Suites in South Lake Tahoe. It is right on the CalNevada border and you can walk to the Heavenly gondola, or walk to the casinos. Might be ideal for your party.<BR><BR>We've spent Easter week in April in Tahoe and there was still good skiing, but as others have said, you never know. <BR><BR>Southwest shouldn't mind if you have an open jaw (fly into one city and out of another), so I think that's your best bet if you can work out the car rental. Check around. Some agencies really don't charge more for dropping off in a different location. Hotwire even offers a one-way option, you should definitely check it out.<BR><BR>Good luck! Sounds like a fun trip!<BR>

tom Oct 31st, 2002 11:40 PM

Late march tends to be past the peak season at Tahoe. Crowds are usually thinning down by then. The weather is often quite nice, and Carson City and Virginia City make a good day trip for non-skiers. Weekdays are definitely much less crowded on the slopes at Tahoe. I'm not a big Heavenly fan (too many people on the slopes seem to still be in gambling mode); I might suggest Northstar or Alpine Meadows (or Squaw Valley for weekday) as long as the roads are clear.<BR><BR>I would consider flying into Sacramento or Reno. You probably want to stay close to the airport Monday night, and I think you might find things a bit more convenient/pleasant near those airports.

janis Nov 1st, 2002 08:02 PM

Bob - the ski crowds shouldn't be bad in March - but they will be MUCH less on Thurs/Fri than on Sat/Sun. Even in the height of the ski season Friday is not nearly as crowded as Sat/Sun.<BR><BR>Southwest is great because you don't pay the premium for Open-jaw that you would on other airlines. I would fly in to Reno (or Sacramento as a distant 2nd choice since it is a 2+ hour drive to the slopes) and out of Oakland or san Jose. A one-way car rental will cost more but the convenience of not having to drive up to, and back from, Tahoe would more than make up for that.

Kay Nov 2nd, 2002 10:35 PM

Be aware Southwest does not fly into SFO --recent change.Also not sure if SWA will let you fly into one airport and out another if you are using a free Rapid Rewards ticket.. <BR>You might consider Sacramento as it is about 31/2 hrs from Heavenly (Tahoe) and 1 1/2 hrs from San <BR>Francisco. Also any skiing area is usually very crowded on Saturday.and often Friday afternoon. Thins out on Sunday after 11 AM -noon. Even if you can't ski the area is beautiful.<BR>

XXX Nov 3rd, 2002 07:22 AM

Kay,<BR><BR>Bob said nothing about flying into San Francisco. He did mention Oakland as a possibility for the Bay Area. Southwest does fly into Oakland.<BR><BR>XXX

janis Nov 3rd, 2002 06:33 PM

Note - except for one, every rapid rewards ticket I have ever used was open jaw. No problem at all flying into one city and out of another. I've done it six times, most recently this Sept into Norfolk and out of BWI.

Bob Jan 5th, 2003 12:13 PM

Okay, we are finalizing our plans and they are looking like this for the end of February...Flying into Oakland via SWAir on friday, doing the Bay area (SF) on friday pm, saturday and sunday am. Sunday we will head up to Tahoe and ski Heavenly on Monday and Tuesday. Tuesday evening we'll return to Oakland to fly out wednesday morning. I have seen posts saying it is 3 1/5 hour drive to heavenly from SF and I've seen posts saying it is a 5 hour drive. Which is it and how is the weather so far this year on the drive up and down? We are renting a vehicle and need chains per state law. Anyone have any suggestions, the rental agencies are telling us we are on our own on that one. Is this itinerary okay or are we missing something obvious? What should we not miss? Thanks for all of your help and suggestions.

janis Jan 5th, 2003 12:26 PM

Bob - you cannot assume ANYTHING about the time these drives will take you in the winter. In dry weather on a weekday it can take 3.5 to 4 hours, but if there is snow and chain controls/avalanche controls, etc it can take 6, 7, 8 hours or you might not get through at all. That is why open jaw might have been a better idea. You might get lucky - but the chances of taking two trans-Sierra drives w/o snow is pretty iffy. So far this season hwy 80 (the &quot;all weather highway&quot;) and hwy 50 have both been closed several times from a couple of hours to overnight. And if chains are required you are limited to 25 MPH.

Patrick Jan 5th, 2003 12:34 PM

Bob, you don't need chains if you get a 4 wheel drive car. That's the best solution, to make sure you get 4 wheel drive. Check with the agency. We've done that several times, usually picking up in San Jose or in San Francisco, but usually go to Tahoe also.

Ted Jan 5th, 2003 12:39 PM

Bob<BR>Assuming no storms, the trip from downtown SF to Heavenly will take about 4 - 4 1/2 hours on a Sunday nite. The good news is that most of the traffic will be going the other way. Usually, you won't have to worry about a major snowstorm that late in the season, but it could happen. One way to avoid the chain problem is to rent a four wheel drive vehicle. Late March in California is usually real spring skiing. Icy in the mornings and late afternoons and kind of slushy in the middle of the day. We've already had quite a bit of snow this year, so things are looking good for spring. Given the mix in your group, I would second the recommendation for the new Embassy Suites or staying at one of the casinos on a ski package. Have a great trip.

Greg Jan 5th, 2003 12:54 PM

Contrary to what Patrick and Ted say regarding 4x-drive vehicles and chains, we Californians know different - read the following:<BR><BR>

Patrick Jan 5th, 2003 01:24 PM

I tried that link and get nothing. But I'm not sure what the requirements of Yosemite have to do with Tahoe, assuming that the site is appropriately titled.<BR><BR>I'm not from California, but my brother-in law is and has owned a condo at Northstar at Tahoe for over 14 years. They used to travel back and forth from their home in Saratoga skiing about every other weekend all winter. Five years ago, he and his wife retired and they built a home there, and have lived at Northstar permanently ever since. They have two cars -- both four wheel drive, finally selling their one car that wasn't because the chains were too big an ordeal. One night he went out to pick up Chinese carryout and got stopped enroute back as it started to snow and he had to put on the chains. According to him -- remember, a fourteen year resident of the Lake Tahoe area -- if you have a four wheel drive car, you do not need to use chains. Are you telling me he's wrong???

grag Jan 5th, 2003 01:49 PM

As a 30+ semi-resident of the Tahoe area, I'm telling you that regardless of what your brother-in-law in Saratoga says, California state law states that chains MAY be required on all wheels of ANY vehicle if conditions warrant.<BR><BR>ps - that link works just fine - and is pertinent as it was just reiterating state law. (Yosemite is in California not all that for from Tahoe as you know; you don't think Yosemite has their own highway regulations, do you?)

Patrick Jan 5th, 2003 02:14 PM

My brother in law is not in Saratoga. He has lived in Northstar at Tahoe permanently for the past five years as I described in my post. And yes, it may be that some time road conditions may be become so bad that the highway patrol could stop cars and even require the four wheel drive ones to put on chains. But it has NOT happened in that area in at least five years, so I wouldn't make it a major concern.<BR> <BR>And although I am not a resident of California, yes I do think Yosemite has its own highway regulations. The national park service does close the highways at times -- having nothing to do with what happens at Lake Tahoe, which is not in a National Park.

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